Colossal Cave, a third way - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

February 3, 2021

Colossal Cave, a third way

                                        <<< SNAKE ALERT >>>

I wasn’t thinking I’d write up today’s ride at first.  It covers terrain we’ve already seen here, and I’m due for a journal break and could use some extra time in our packed, event-filled schedule.  I thought I’d just include a thumbnail reference to the ride in the account of the following day’s probably more interesting ride up Madera Canyon, giving just the basics:

We drove to Augie Acuña children’s park, a spot on the Loop about halfway out Julian Wash.  leaving the car there, we biked to the end of the wash along the loop, and then continued east out Mary Ann Cleveland Road and Pistol Hill Road to Colossal Caves again.  We put in our 42 miles, and then a bit more because there wasn’t another suitable spot to park at the perfect distance.

That was before.

About five miles into the ride, passing a favorite spot on Loop, I snapped a photo just to document the weather conditions. Even though we’ve been here before, I thought we should have at least one photo for the day.
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Shortly after taking the shot above, we stopped to take a layer off in the fast-warming day.  It was a good spot to stop, because close by a cactus wren was singing away from its perch atop a cholla.  It’s the best shot I’ve gotten so far of this attractive bird, so of course we’d need to include it too in a brief accounting of the day.

The cactus wren is becoming one of my favorite birds down here. It’s nice to have seen and heard it often enough by now that I can quickly recognize it.
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Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltA lucky shot. Usually they’ve got the sun behind them or flit off as soon as I look their direction.
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3 weeks ago

While we’re stopped there packing away our outer layers, an oncoming bicyclist pulls to a stop and warns of a hazard to watch out for by the next bridge ahead: a rattlesnake in the road!  He’s not sure, but he thinks it must have been hit by a bike.  It was still alive when he passed it, but lying in the middle of the road.

And he’s still there, and still alive when we arrive.  He’s drawn a small crowd around him, and a cautious rescue effort is underway.  They’ve squirted water at him, thinking he might be dehydrated.  A brave sole is prodding him with a stick, trying to urge him to slither off to a safer spot.  I stop for a shot, of course - I don’t remember ever seeing a rattler in the wild, actually - and Rachael hollers to me to keep my distance.

What the hell.  I guess we’ll blog the day after all.

Does that stick look long enough to you? Rachael, no fan of snakes, maintains a more prudent distance.
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Bruce LellmanThat stick is ridiculously short. I wouldn't use anything less than a nine foot pole!
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3 weeks ago
He’s alive - he pulses a bit and flicks his tongue - but is otherwise inert. People debate whether he’s injured or not, with mixed opinions. We prefer to think he’s fine, if this crowd would just leave him alone.
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Bill ShaneyfeltWestern diamondback. Quite good at keeping rodent populations in check. Nice you got to see one in person. They are quite impressively marked.

If folks leave them alone, they will not be aggressive.

It does appear to possibly be injured. About the 3rd "diamond" back from its head is a bump, or protrusion. Possibly an old healed injury, but also possibly (likely) recent.

If I was there, I'd have gotten a stronger and rather longer stick, and dragged the poor thing off into the bushes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_diamondback_rattlesnake
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI think you’re probably right, sadly enough. Surprising to see him out so early in the season, I thought.
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3 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltThey pay more attention to temperature than calendars... :-)
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3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauI think the snake is still in a state of sedation,
Just trying to wake up after months of hibernation.
But there's no way I'd get near it,
'Cuz I respect it and fear it,
And I'm not ready for death or re-incarnation.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauBeautiful.
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3 weeks ago

Ten miles into the ride, we come to the end of the bikeway at Houghton Road.  We cross the railway line over its long bridge, and then turn east on Mary Ann Cleveland Way.  I think I remember Kelly stating that Cleveland was a rough-surfaced, unpleasant ride; but it’s just fine.  It’s well surfaced and has a wide shoulder for its whole length - a good ride - so maybe I’ve misremembered or it’s been recently resurfaced.  It carries a bit of traffic for the first several miles, but once we pass the last of the suburbs and the turnoff to Loma Alta it all disappears.  The remaining miles to Colossal Cave are a beautiful ride.

Dropping to the Houghton Town Center, with a familiar profile on the horizon.
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The view northeast from Cleveland Way.
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Looking across the suburbs at the upper end of Pantano Wash.
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Dropping down from Pistol Hill to the junction with the Old Spanish Trail.
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Rachael is off ahead of me as usual, but she’s not to be seen at the top of Colossal Caves when I reach the summit.  I speculate that maybe she’s wheeled her bike into the loo, but then I see her biking up down below.  She’d taken a short detour to take up some slack time, and arrives about five minutes after me.

A familiar figure pedals up Old Spanish Trail.
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The final ascent.
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We sit on a bench surveying the terrain, enjoying our snacks and an orange.  It’s really a splendid vantage point up here, with fine views in all directions.  We’re in the middle of another saguaro forest, and with thousands of these tree cacti within view it seems like the odds are that there’s a crested one out there within sight if we just look hard enough.  None appears to us though, and finally we remount and head for the exit.

Cooling their wheels, Colossal Caves. They need it - it’s the hottest day of the year so far, and will reach 80.
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The view southwest from the Colossal Caves viewpoint. That’s Mount Wrightson holding up the snow off in the distance.
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Immediately, I spot one after all just as we begin coasting off the hill.  It’s off in the distance high up on a ridge.  It’s amazing to both of us that I picked it out at that distance.  The eye/brain team is so amazing.

It’s out there, straight above my back wheel, just breaking the horizon.
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Crested saguaro No. 4! Once again, my zoom camera earns its keep and gives us a respectable view. This shot is taken from the same spot as the one above.
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Kelly Iniguezhttps://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/30/weekinreview/the-nation-for-rustlers-cactus-is-the-big-cash-crop.html - here's an old article from 1987 that says someone stole a crested saguaro and sold it for $15,000. Cactus rustling is a big business . . .

I had to do some side research on how many arms saguaros have. Driving down between Globe and Tucson, there is a large saguaro forest. Those cacti have many arms. I was poking around trying to see if it's a particular variety of saguaro, or what is the reason that the saguaros in that area have so many arms. There's no reason, is the short answer.

Driving through Phoenix and Flagstaff is the easier, slightly shorter drive for me to get to Tucson. But, taking the back route is more scenic. There's Salt River Canyon and the big saguaro forest, for starters.

BTW, I think it will never happen for me as a bike ride. Globe to Show Low, AZ is 87 miles and almost 10,000 feet of climbing. Perhaps doable if there's someplace in the middle to stop, but there isn't.

Kelly
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3 weeks ago

I’m reasonably pleased with the shot I can get from the road, but then Rachael notices there’s a small, minimal trail in the direction of the cactus.  She stays behind to watch the bikes while I follow the short trail to its end and keep going, scrambling across the shallow wash to a spot where I can get a closer shot.  

It’s an interesting little outing, weaving through a thicket of sharp, pointy things and keeping an eye out for toxic critters.  Surprisingly, the photo I take from closer up is inferior to the one taken from the road.  It’s less clear, maybe because it’s facing more into the sun or because I’m having a hard time holding my balance on the side of a steep, precarious slope.  

The shot that really disappoints me though is the one I missed, of a small flock of black throated sparrows that briefly lads on a rock near me.  It’s an attractive species with a bold pattern, and the first ones I’ve seen here this winter.  I’m standing in a precarious spot though and can’t get balanced and the camera out before they move on.

So let’s count the potential hazards here: abrasions and perforations; slips and falls; rockslides; venomous critters. Smart!
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I didn’t care for the shot I took of the crested saguaro, but I did like this fallen yucca cradled in an ocotillo.
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The ride back goes fast, and I’m happy to see that there’s no sign of the rattler on the way back.  He’s not squished on the bike path and he’s not lying dead in the sand beside it either, so I choose to think he’s just fine.

It’s genuinely hot by the time we make it back to the car.  This is the first time I’ve had sweat running into my eyes on this tour.  It’s a little unseasonable, but it’s a sign that it’s nearing time to move on.

Cresting the saddle over Pistol Hill, with several miles of coasting ahead.
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Back in town, we shower and head downtown for a last meal in the outside patio of 47 Scott.  Like our list of favorite rides, we’re also checking off a list of restaurants we want to give a last bit of business to before we go.  As we sit there enjoying our meals, a breeze comes up and draws my attention to the sky.  Interesting clouds are moving in from the west, moving so quickly that I might have taken a video of them if I’d thought to bring the camera.

Later in the day, sitting on the couch back at our casita, I look out the window and see the same finely granular, pixelated cloud formation.  Is there a name for clouds like these?  I return to the article I’m reading, look up again just a few minutes later, and see that the sky is on fire.  It’s a brief spectacle, and the embers fade just a few minutes later.

Is there a name for cloud formations like this?
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be cirrocumulus, but I'm never quite sure of all the cirrus subtypes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cirrocumulus_cloud
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltCirrocumulus! I knew I’d known this in the past. Thanks for refreshing my memory. The super type is sufficient for me too.
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3 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltI actually have a bit of trouble with super types too... I almost always need to do a google image search to try & decide. I have a friend who is often posting various cloud types on fb, so he helps keep me confused.
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3 weeks ago
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Ride stats today: 46 miles, 1,900’; for the tour: 2,506 miles, 89,400’; for the year: 28 riding days, 1,243 miles, 35,400’, and 2 flat tires

Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 2,507 miles (4,035 km)

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Jen Grumby"The eye/brain team is so amazing."

Now that's worthy of a limerick!

The eye/brain team: so amazing ..
A neural connection worth praising!
Crested saguaro number four
Missed by most, if not more
But Scott's got a keen eye for gazing.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyBeautiful. I especially like this one.
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3 weeks ago